Radio Talk-Kampala, Uganda

The Economist October 10th 2020 pp42 |Middle East & Africa| “Where calling is a calling” “the people who make a career of phoning radio stations”

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These days 2244, like most of us, aren’t traveling wide and far so notes from other worldly places are increasingly of interest. This brief comes from Bwaise, “a poor quarter of the Ugandan capital” of Kampala-a city of 1,650,800. Political talk shows on radio are big and when Rajabu Bukenya, not pictured, connects with one of his continuously dialing cell phones he “has all of Kampala as his audience” and opens with “This is Rasta Man in Bwaise who eats once a day.” While so called “regulars” comprise 80% of the successfully connecting calls, the radio stations consider them a nuisance but government ministers urge them to let them speak. Rajabu elaborates on “crooked politics, bad roads, or floods that sweep through Bwaise.” These professional callers claim not to accept money yet some have done well or get connected with government jobs. If they hit a soft spot, they apparently get some guidance. For example, if “a ministry is being bashed on air, … these ministers would call us to give us facts.” The callers, almost all men, see themselves as “media activists” and believe they “fill a vacuum that exists between the government and the people.” Kampala is a mixture of modern and traditional buildings.

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